Amman (Agencies): The Tunisia bug may be spreading faster than the royalty and dictators of Middle East like. Jordan's King Abdullah II fired his government on Tuesday in the wake of street protests and asked an ex-Prime Minister to form a new Cabinet, asking him to launch political reforms.

The move follows several large protests across Jordan - inspired by similar demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt - calling for the resignation of PM Samir Rifai, who is largely blamed for a rise in fuel and food prices and slowed political reforms.

A Royal Palace press release said Abdullah accepted Rifai's resignation tendered earlier in the day.

The King named Marouf al-Bakhit his PM-designate, instructing him to "undertake quick and tangible steps for real political reforms, which reflect our vision for comprehensive modernization and development in Jordan," the palace statement said.

Al-Bakhit was previously Jordan's premier from 2005-2007.

The King also emphasised that economic reform was a "necessity to provide a better life for our people, but we won't be able to attain that without real political reforms, which must increase popular participation in the decision-making."

When he became King in 1999, Abdullah vowed to go ahead with political reforms initiated by his late father, King Hussein. Those reforms paved the way for the first parliamentary election in 1989 after a 22-year gap, the revival of a multiparty system and the suspension of martial law in effect since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

But little was done after that. Although laws were enacted to ensure greater press freedom, journalists are still prosecuted for expressing their opinion or for comments considered slanderous of the King and the royal family.

Some gains have been made in the area of women's rights, but many say they have not gone far enough. Abdullah has pressed for harsher penalties for perpetrators of "honor killings," but courts often hand down lenient sentences.

Still, Jordan's human rights record is generally considered above that of Tunisia and Egypt. Although some critics of the King are taken to task regularly, they frequently are pardoned and some are even rewarded with government posts.

It was not immediately clear when al-Bakhit will name his Cabinet. He is a moderate politician, who served as Jordan's ambassador to Israel earlier this decade.

During his 2005-2007 tenure, al-Bakhit — an ex-Army major general and top intelligence adviser — was credited with maintaining security and stability following an attack, which killed 60 people and was labeled as the worst in Jordan's modern history.